Readers Poll Results: The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

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sashastowers91

Agreed.

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WONKY

Eddie Van & Brian May 1st & 2nd??? Really???? Too many cock rockers voting on this one. Also too many pupils ahead of their teachers...

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Frank Cajon

A quick look at list shows a few of the problems with polls like this. Guthrie Govan isn't on the list. Between 47 and 73,we have Rory Gallagher, Al DiMeola, Steve Morse, Johnny Winter, Albert Lee, John McLaughlin, Joe Bonamassa, and Eric Johnson-all for whom a top ten argument could easily be made. In the top ten there are some good players, but I have played for 49 years and written about music for 10 and and will never be able to figure out why Eddie Van Halen would make the top fifty much less top five of a poll like this, and challenge anyone with ears to play 'Led Zeppelin Live at the BBC' and tell me that the sloppy overplaying by Page on it doesn't make them cringe. He wrote and arranged a number of catchy '70s tunes, but a virtuoso guitarist, he is not.
I like the idea proposed that a list by players would read differently. For one thing, Wes Montgomery wouldn't be the anchor man, and while I'm sure SRV would still be in the top 10 with Hendrix, that there would be fewer sweep-picking metal specialists and more players like Lee and Morse who are technique masters.
I would list the top players by genre, and like this:
Jazz: John McLaughlin, George Benson, AlDimeola, Larry Carlton
Blues: Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Joe Bonamassa, BB King
Country, Blues Hybrids: Steve Morse, Albert Lee, Luther Dickinson
Metal/Prog Rock: Guthrie Govan, John Petrucci,Uli John Roth, Steve Vai
Others: Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Brian May, Alex Lifeson.
That is 21 names, and I think they all belong in the top 25 of any guitar player's list of top guitarists. Many will disagree, but that is what music is all about.

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GuitaraddictEd

I guess jazz isn't your genre. They are all great but the top jazz guitarists should include

Django Reinhart, Grant Green, Charlie Christian, and Joe Pass

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revo74

"and challenge anyone with ears to play 'Led Zeppelin Live at the BBC' and tell me that the sloppy overplaying by Page on it doesn't make them cringe. He wrote and arranged a number of catchy '70s tunes, but a virtuoso guitarist, he is not."

Just "catchy" tunes? How about legendary tunes. Led Zeppelin is arguably the greatest rock band ever, certainly top 5 -- and Page makes it in the top 20 of every single all-time guitarist list I have even saw. He usually ranks in the top 10.

Van Hallen is certainly not #1 and in my opinion shouldn't be in the top 10, but he deserves to be in the top 50.

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telecranker

Jimmy Plage ripped off many old blues musicians & got the intro to Stairway to Heaven from Spirit. Google it, there are at least 6 volumes of his thefts.

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RattandRoll

Yngwie Malmsteen, George Lynch, Eliot Easton, Don Felder, Jake E Lee, John Sykes, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Chuck Berry, Steve Stevens, John Norum, Keith Richards, Andy Taylor, Nile Rodgers, Warren De Martini. This is my list of personal favorite guitar players of all time.

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MetalSkull

1. Hendrix
2. Jimmy Page
3. Iommi
4. Blackmore
5. Eddie Van halen

I think without the first 4, no van halen, no satriani, no nothing...

Stay Tune

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Priest-The-Beast

Although I have my personal ranking list based on my understanding of guitar-playing as a guitarist, yet I'm not gonna comment on this list or some other one, as far as the ranking from the 2nd to the 100th is concerned.

But not ranking Jimi Hendrix at number 1 is a blatant foul.

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ozzyrr

RANDY RHOADS might be the best after reading this list i believe he is the most underrated not in the top 10 that is bogus

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redstrat8

DOES ANY ONE PLAY CHORDS ANY MORE GEEZ.HA HA

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meguitarman

An issue of Guitar World Magazine cost $2.00 back in 1983 and now, $7.99 :D

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GreenBird

I am going to break it down for you ladies one more time.
I think this final list was very disappointing, but it was fun to count them down. In the end I do not think people who really play guitar dictated the outcome of this poll. It was fan bases and active PR on the part of some guitarist. If this poll had been put together by people who actually played guitar it would look very very different. I think even the people at GW would agree with that! In the end that is what it comes down too, who voted was it guitarist or simply fans who do not really know much about playing guitar. In this poll it was fans and fanboys who probably could not tell you the difference between a scale and chord. So take this entire poll with a grain of salt it tells you nothing in regards to playing but a lot in regards to who still has an active fan base.

linkonhayes

To all of those people who voted for Eddie Van Halen I guess you never saw the backstage video from the '69 Stones tour where Hendrix was jamming with Mick Taylor using Taylors Right handed Les Paul Strung for a right handed player & Hendrix played the guitar left handed with Taylor till his jaw dropped because they had never seen anyone ever do it then or not that I know of since. I don't think Eddie could do that before now or ever. To me that is the greatist guitarist who ever lived.

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furto1981

Polls are polls but....I am a rush geek. 20 straight years listening to Moving Pictures. And, obviously, I always thought of Alex as one of the most underrated guitar players of the rock era....More important than Jimi? Never ever...Van Halen? That "Alex" deserve respect and admiration for his skills and technique. But is not quite as important in rock music and guitar playing as Jimi Hendrix... (English is not my main language. I apologize in advance for my grammar and spelling errors)

jefffos

If you let guitarists vote on this poll it would've looked a lot different. And there were a lot of players that may seem weird ahead of others because of the way the matchups were set. For example, Hubert Sumlin. Hubert's first round match up was against Robert Johnson (who should have at least been in the top 5, as should Les Paul. Hubert didn't have a chance. This was a great poll until Brian May's people ruined the entire competition. I've been a Queen fan for over 25yrs, but I have to admit that I can't look at May the same way. Prostituting one's self to garner votes is pathetic in my mind and it was done for May. "Brian isn't the one who controls his social media", that's what May's fans have said. Well, it's his name and likeness, as well as that of Queen's. He should control it. Having said that, EVH is absurdly overrated and hasn't done anything remotely relevant since the early 80's...

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Franckirk

Well, first: Eddie Van Halen? you are crazy? we all know that Jimi Hendrix was the best ... is a genius! like Albert Einstein, but in music!
and SHIT like Paul Gilbert and Steve Vay in the top 25? My god! Clapton, BB King and Angus Young are much better than them! are light years apart.
You are saying: a monkey is better than a human!!!

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treblecleff

I have read a lot of comments here about how this should have been called a popularity contest instead of using the word "greatest." To be completely fair though, shouldn't popularity be at least considered as a determining factor in greatness? I'm not saying it should be the only factor, but it does come off as being a bit elitist to try to insinuate that popularity implies a lack of validity. This type of thinking leads to smaller and smaller inner circles of obscurity who feel compelled to convince the majority of players as to why their tastes in music are inferior.

What is the alternative, having a few elite musicians decide for us who we should ultimately value as guitarists? I am sure there are plenty of technically proficient players who were beaten in the poll by less advanced musicians, but so what. Is it the fault of better known musicians that they write music that touches a greater audience?

Don't get me wrong, I have my share of problems with the validity of the poll results as well, but popularity is not one of them. If the mark of greatness had less to do with popularity then nobody would care except for a few people in Juiliard that nobody has ever heard of.

Any poll will be subjective. A poll based on other things like just technique would obviously yield different results, but would be no more valid than one that factors in popularity. I don't mind reading about what snobs have to say and learning from it, but at the same time I try to stay down to Earth and not devalue the music I enjoy the most because it sounds less sophisticated when I am trying to impress someone.

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Dominique F Barbour

How in world some of them get so high on this list and even get on the top 100. Need move some up. Missing some also.

picman1

Brian May making the finals destroys any and all credibility in this poll.That said, Eddie Van Halen first is not a poor choice although it isn't my first choice. Nice to see recognition for Alex Lifeson of RUSH with third place finish.

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trussett

Last time I checked this was a popularity contest based on subjective opinion, so why get worked up over who won? Can one player be 'better' than another - technically yes, there are probably thousands of 'technically' better players out there than some of these players on the list, hell I've been playing 30+ years and probably have better 'technique' than some of these guys. Does that make me a better guitarist than the guy who came up with Gimme Shelter or some technically simple guitar part, not a freaking chance. If you are all guitar players, you should know this is all subjective and no one will ever agree.

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Mike_mccready

James hetfield in the top twenty? In front of Jeff beck, bb king, angus young, etc., and even his own lead guitarist?
And where's mike mccready?

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ipsofacto

That's what happens when someone familiar as Hetfield is matched-up against players that most people have never even heard of. They're gonna vote for the guy that they know. Primarily a rhythm guitarist, he probably shouldn't even be on the list.

linkonhayes

I think we finally agree on something. Good to read your opinions.

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ipsofacto

Thanks...all in good fun. lol

Even though some players were overlooked, a few don't belong, and the order is a bit messed-up, the list is actually quite diverse, covering a variety of era's and styles. As well, 9 of my favorites did make the Top 20.

What bugs me the most is the number of relatively new metal guitarists that are on the list. I can understand recognizing a few of the more modern metal pioneers like Metalica, Pantera, Megadeth (maybe a couple of others), but most of the players that followed after these bands are basically just clones (nothing unique).

They don't belong on the list any more than the pile of great 80's players that were overlooked for being clones of EVH. Yet several of which were unique and gifted players in their own right, with a string of hit songs and albums that are regularly heard on the radio to this day.

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Franckirk

Well, first: Eddie Van Halen? we all know that Jimi Hendrix was the best ... is a genius! like Albert Einstein, but in music!!
and shit like Paul Gilbert and Steve Vay in the top 25? My god! Clapton, B.B King and Angus Young are better than them!

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13jeff213

Angus Young better than Paul Gilbert and Steve Vay?

Thanks for enlightening me.

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icecell

Please stop putting Hendrix in these lists, Isle of Wight video is hysterical. He could write a song, just could never play it again.
Shouldn't be 'greatest' guitarist, it should be 'best' guitarist

These guys are masters of their craft.

-EVH
-Satriani
-Mustaine
-Yngwie
-Vai
-Murray
-SRV
-Gilmour
-Rhodes
-Paige
-Buckethead
-Bettencort

These are the best, they can produce anything that any other guitarist you mention can produce as well if not better. This is just a statement of fact.
Who is the best? None and all

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telecranker

... they can produce anything that any other guitarist you mention can produce as well if not better?

Originality and influence must not mean much to you.

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sashastowers91

Nuno Bettencourt made your list, he's good but based on other guitar legends and signature sounds, I don't think he should even be on this list.

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Gerry1964

youve missed a very special guitarist of your list buddy,
BRIAN MAY, surely extra special and better than what was on your shopping list!
MAY ROCKS !!!

picman1

Ice - thank goodness you are here. Why did they bother with the poll when all they had to do was ask you? No need to be a tool about it. It is more opinion and popularity than pure ranking talent. By the way, while you listed several excellent guitarists, a few do not belong top ten of all time and you forgot a couple (without Clapton your list is VOID and buckethead is fast but not top 10 best) as well but that's YOUR opinion so chill.

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Hendrix1970

Dont really think you can judge him by the concerts near the end of his life, it's a pitty they recorded that one perfectly and not the others gems!

tbrillian

The list shouldn't be titled 100 greatest, it should be 100 most popular, which is what it was, there is no possible way to get an accurate list of 100 greatest, I suppose the best way would be to have the all the guitar players who are in this countdown and still alive to vote on it, but even then, it comes down to preference.

linkonhayes

I agree. It is only a popularity contest like who had the best hair or who is the Poster on the teenage, players or not, bedroom wall.

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Guitar George

Well, I suppose EVH is as good a choice as any, not that I'm a big EVH fan. Actually, all my favorites either weren't in the contest at all (Roy Buchanan, Link Wray)....or never made it past the first round (Leslie West, Rory Gallagher).

That said, I think the winner really should have been Chuck Berry. He started it all, as far as rock guitar goes. Is he currently the greatest guitarist on the planet? Heck no. But let's be honest....who doesn't throw in at least 1 Chuck Berry lick, from time-to-time? Even EVH throws in a Chuck Berry lick, from time-to-time.

Or, as I heard Chuck himself bark at a pick-up band who messed up while backing him at a concert I attended back in the 70's:

"Dammit....EVERYONE knows CHUCK BERRY!!!"

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EatPills

LOL at this list. Zappa not even in the top 5 is just absolutely hilarious. Seriously how is Vai above Zappa? Are you people brain dead?

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loral

I'm not sure if you understand yet... Vai, besides being technically a better player, made a musical connection to more people voting; which puts him above Zappa. To put simply, those who voted Vai above Zappa like him more.

Zappa fans are fanatic; but if you understand the method of how Vai even became part of Zappa's band, you'll then know that even Zappa recognized how great of a player Vai is. He joined by invitation.

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13jeff213

How is Vai above Zappa?

Because his guitar playing technique is superior.

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telecranker

Some people do it, some see right though it, and some where pojamas, if only they knew it. Frank's solo in that song (Pojama Poeple) is one of the greatest ever - I'll bet SV would laugh at the suggestion that he was a better guitarist than FZ

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telecranker

Some people do it, some see right though it, and some wear pojamas, if only they knew it. Frank's solo in that song (Pojama People) is one of the greatest ever - I'll bet SV would laugh at the suggestion that he was a better guitarist than FZ.

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bluescat

I don't how they came up with this list but it is screwed up! I have never even heard of some of these yahoo's before! The great players are all over the list instead of being in the top 20 or so. EVH is a good player but SRV and a few others are better. There is more to being a great player than just being fast!

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MetalBret

from "rockbotTOM" sucking EVHs meat to the other fanboy mancrushes here this list and comments make me sick... AlexSkolnick is at LEAST top 10.. if not top 5.. NO ONE in Metallahasbeen belongs on the list..Mustaine at 12 is a Fn joke... EVH is a fingertap fraud and to not have Marty.F. is sad.. this shows two things....
1- the readers of this mag are total morons...
2- the people in charge of this are dumber than the readers..

i did a poll of the top 100 music mags... you didnt place on the list....
but "rockbotTOM" got #1 on the "Who Would Blow A Guy" poll!!

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13jeff213

I did a poll of stupidest comments.

You came in 2nd place.

Congratulations.

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rumblecat

If I was a Guitar World editor I'd not publish that list.
Van Hairdo and Brian May more influential than Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray, and on and on ... simply not based in reality.

This poll / contest was nothing more than a bot vote stuffing exercise.

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rockbotTOM

Regardless of what ANYONE thinks on EVH, IMO, he is THE most influential guitarist in the history of guitar.

I would also go the distance to say he, again IMO, is the most complete guitar player in history.

I will list my top 5 again:

1. EVH
1a Hendrix
3. Clapton
4. Page
5. BB King

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MetalBret

wow.. if you sucked EVHs manstick any harder you would have to change your name to Bertaneli... EVH is is like a porsh.. all look and flash.. but no use or substance

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3PuttChuck

Again, if you want better results, the format needs to change. Have readers put their own favorites in order of say top 50. Then, tabulate them down to average ranking for top 20. One list per user name. That would give the best representation of what we believe as a community. Never will be perfect as you can't please everyone all the time. But it would result in a list where people would accept it easier. By the way, Vernon Reid at #26 ?!?!?!? Hahhhhhh....hahhhhh....aahhhhahhh....bwahhhhhh...hahhh!!!

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rockbotTOM

I can't believe some of the posts on here. People saying Eddie is limited, doesn't have a whole lot of tricks, aka one-trick-pony. Saying he isn't worthy and such. Ugh!

If any of you know a lick about guitar innovation, influence, diversity, technique, speed, accuracy, rhythm, sound, style, etc, you'd know that Eddie possesses ALL OF THE ABOVE!!! If you you don't think so, you're an Eddie hater, jealous or just out right guitar illiterate!

It's ok to have an opinion as to who should be the victor of the poll, but to say Eddie won without good enough chops is outright STUPIDITY!!

Give credit where credit's due. Eddie was a great pick. Put it this way, I'm glad he beat out May, who I believe, shouldn't have made it this far. I mean, come on! Brian May getting past Hendrix and Page??? Are you kidding me???

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AsianMan

"If any of you know a lick about guitar innovation, influence, diversity, technique, speed, accuracy, rhythm, sound, style, etc, you'd know that Eddie possesses ALL OF THE ABOVE!!! If you you don't think so, you're an Eddie hater, jealous or just out right guitar illiterate!"

Eddie Hater? Let's be realistic here. IMO he has more of an influence on others than anything else. His technique is sloppy, his speed is sub par, accuracy has diminished over the years, and his rhythms aren't at all complex. If you want to talk about someone that excels way beyond in the criteria you listed(other than influence since he's isn't as well known as Eddie) then that would have to be Guthrie Govan.

He has the speed to match Paul Gilberts, as well as being super clean in his playing, he is probably the most diverse guitar player being that he can play well in every genre the guitar is welcome in, his accuracy is top notch, and his rhythm and tone are ridiculously well crafted.

If you don't agree that Guthrie Govan excels in every criteria you listed, then you are the one that is guitar illiterate.

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